Capital News Service
LANSING- One of the best ways to fight identity theft will get more power if new
legislation is enacted, backers say.
The proposal would allow people to put a security freeze on their credit reports. That
would effectively “lock” a person’s credit so that no one else could use that report to get
loans or credit cards.
Consumers would still be able to use their cards and loans, but would have to
“unlock” the report to apply for new credit.
To make such protection affordable, the maximum fee for the freeze would be $10.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, said that the bill is part of
an ongoing effort to protect state residents.
“The best defense is a good offense,” said Angerer, “Michigan made some good
moves, good strides, last year on security breaches, and this security credit freeze is one
more step in the process.”
Another sponsor of the proposal, Rep. Fred Miller, D-Mount Clemens, said it is
important to protect Michigan residents from the problems created by identity theft.
“I’ve had people come forward to me, victims of identity theft, and they’ve told horror
stories about how before they even realized it, it had gotten out of control,” said Miller,
“This would be important protection that people would have if they found themselves in
this situation. They could immediately put a halt to it.”
Detective Sgt. David Kelly of the State Police identity theft team says the legislation
would be “added protection” in safeguarding consumers against a growing crime.
“We’re finding it to be sort of the emerging crime of the future,” Kelly said. “First of
all, it’s a very lucrative crime and second of all, the penalties are not very severe.”
Kelly said that his Livonia-based team currently investigates about 20 cases every
month in the Detroit area.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were 7,139 cases of identity theft
reported in Michigan in 2005, the most recent year for which it has data.
To avoid identity theft, experts recommend that individuals ask to be removed from
mailing lists that send pre-approved credit cards and that they regularly check their credit
Kelly said taking such steps can be cumbersome because businesses have different
procedures and timelines for removing people from mailing lists.
Some companies that will do the work, for a price.
“They will put a fraud alert on your credit report and continuously update that alert so
nobody can open an account using your information without you knowing about it,” said
Kelly. “They would take you off those (credit card) mailing lists.”
The bill’s sponsors include Reps. Kate Ebli, D-Monroe; Steve Tobocman D-Detroit;
Richard Ball, R-Bennington Township; Frank Accavitti Jr., D-Eastpointe; and Marie
Donigan, D-Royal Oak.
The bill is before the House Banking and Financial Services Committee.
For more information, go to FTC.gov or www.michigan.gov/identity-theft.